Last Night: Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey

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Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey
July 18, 2009
Café Du Nord

By Wade Grubbs

Better Than: Just sitting around at home listening to the new record.

Saturday night, Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey entertained a small but enthusiastic audience at the Café Du Nord. The pair were founding members and primary songwriters of the dB's, the tuneful power-pop quartet from North Carolina who were a critical if not commercial success in the post-punk 1970s and '80s. They are touring small venues throughout the U.S. to support their latest release, the self-produced and recorded hERE aND nOW, their first collaboration since 1991's Mavericks.

I'm such a big fan of this pair's music that if I heard they were busking nearby, I would call in sick from work and toss quarters in their guitar cases all day. The casual intimacy of this show wasn't too far removed from that atmosphere, although the two did employ a set list. The Du Nord was arranged with tables and chairs on the floor, which contributed to the relaxed living-room feel of the show. It's evident from their friendly rapport that Holsapple and Stamey are old friends and, like much of the audience, now proper grown-ups who are comfortable in their own skin. One thing that hasn't changed about them (or perhaps has improved) is their rich harmony vocals.

The set began by drawing heavily from the new album. The pair were joined by Gary Greene on drums and percussion and Jeff Crawford on bass, Holsapple sticking primarily to acoustic guitar and Stamey alternating between electric and acoustic guitars. The live presentation was what the new songs needed to provide an immediacy to their delivery and to bring the vocal harmonies further forward in the mix.

Holsapple and Stamey played a mix of tunes from their two albums plus a few covers, including a beautiful rendition of Chris Bell's "I Am the Cosmos." Oddly enough, they played only two dB's tunes, "Black and White," from the first album, and "Nothing Is Wrong" from 1982's Repercussion. The show ended early with the group returning for one encore: "The Child in You" and "Let It Be Me," the song made famous by the Everly Brothers.

This was an unusual evening for live music at the Du Nord, as Holsapple and Stamey were the only act on the bill and began their set at 8 p.m. Later that night, the club was given over to a hip-hop DJ set. It was interesting for me and my friends, several of whom are now parents, to be leaving a venue remarking that "It's only 9:30. Wow!" We wizened and desiccated types ascended the stairs, our heads full of tuneful harmonies, happy to surrender the remainder of the evening to a younger generation in their boogie shoes.


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